Columbus Mabika in MUKUMBURA
Over 23 000 households in Mukumbura, Mashonaland Central province, are set to benefit from land measuring 6,95 square kilometres with a frontage of 73km that was demined by Government in conjunction with a non-governmental organisation.
The community will use the land for farming and pastures.
Anti-personnel landmines numbering up to 50 254 were recovered and destroyed from the area.
Handing over the land, Minister of Defence and War Veterans Affairs, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ambassador Mark Gray Marongwe, said the development was a step in the right direction.
“The area we are handing over will see the local population start utilising the land for economic benefits,” she said. “This is great work being done as we forge ahead with our quest to achieve the objective of a mine free Zimbabwe by 2025.
“I wish to convey appreciation to donor organisations for coming to the aid of Zimbabwe’s demining programme that for a long time suffered lack of funding following the imposition of illegal economic sanctions on the country. It is also important to note this clearance exercise has been conducted by Zimbabweans for Zimbabweans as almost all of HALO’s recruitment with the exception of a few senior staff and technical experts has come from the local areas.”
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said while most minefields were clearly marked and fenced, over time the markings and fences were vandalised, leaving locals totally exposed to the danger of being hit by landmines.
Local authorities were called on to immediately ensure the productive utilisation of the cleared land.
Receiving the land, Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution for Mashonaland Central, Monica Mavhunga, said the eradication of landmines was a major relief for communities in her province.
“The clearance of the land we have received today brings much relief, especially to children,” she said. “Children had to dice with death on a daily basis scaling through minefields.”
Local Chief, Mr Short Kanzou, hailed Government for taking aboard partners to end the landmine menace.
“One problem gone after deaths and injuries have been inflicted,” he said. “Some are dead while some could not be here today because they cannot walk to witness this milestone in the freedom of Zimbabwe.
“We are thankful for this achievement.”
Mr Wonder Mako, a victim who lost his right leg 32 years ago while working in his parents’ fields, said life had been a living hell since the fateful day.
“Life has never been the same since the day I lost this leg,” he said. “I cannot do what others are doing except spending years sitting.”
Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre director, Colonel Mkhululi Ncube, said Zimbabwe was working flat out to achieve a landmine free Zimbabwe by 2025.
He said in the quest to remove the landmines, the Zimbabwe National Army National Mine Clearance Squadron was being complemented by four non-governmental organisations namely HALO Trust, Mine Action Group, APOPO and Norwegian Peoples Aid.
Col Ncube said at least 2 000 people had been injured by the landmines, while 800 000 peoples’ livelihoods have been affected throughout the country.
HALO Trust programmes manager Mr Samuel Fricker said his organisation will continue to complement Government in landmine clearance efforts.